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ANSWER Fined Over $7000 for March 21st Anti-War Posters
For Immediate Release
March 12, 2009
Bill Hackwell at 415-269-7917
ANSWER Fined Over $7000
for March 21st Anti-War Posters
In the last weeks, the ANSWER Coalition has been hit with over $7,000 in fines for posters announcing the March 21 National March on the Pentagon that have been put up in Washington, D.C. Just yesterday, we received another $1,800 in fines for 12 posters; today, we received another $600 for 4 posters.
"The government is trying to effectively eliminate ANSWER’s and any group’s ability to engage in postering for Free Speech protected activities or dissemination of posters and flyers. The message is this: If you are an anti-war group or a progressive grassroots organization and you hand out or put up a poster, as you may have always done in the past, you can now expect heavy fines and long court battles that are designed to divert money and resources - or shut you down completely," stated ANSWER Coalition spokesperson Sarah Sloan.
Mayor Fenty and the Department of Public Works received over 3,000 emails in the last 24 hours protesting the fines levied against the ANSWER Coalition.
"The posters for which we were fined are lawfully posted. The District is also issuing fines against ANSWER regardless of who put up the poster - they are just sanctioning us for being organizers and supporters of the political anti-war demonstration being publicized. Unlike many of the politicians, concert promoters and other corporate entities that put up posters in DC, the ANSWER Coalition even sends out teams of volunteers to remove posters following the conclusion of a demonstration or event," Ms. Sloan continued.
Many individuals come in and take posters and leaflets from the office or download them from the website. As we have done for the past eight years, we provide copies of the DC regulations to people that indicate how to poster in conformity with lawful regulations.
A big shift happened prior to the September 15, 2007 "Bring the Troops Home Now" mass demonstration that was led by veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We were targeted in an unprecedented campaign and hit with $55,000 in fines.
When we held a press conference in Lafayette Park to protest the postering fines, the news conference was attacked by police on horseback. Three people were falsely arrested and the media was scattered by the police. Nearly 100,000 people watched the attack on YouTube and support for the demonstration grew rather than diminished. That was an important lesson about how we can resist and win.
We announced then that we would file a lawsuit to defend our constitutional rights. That lawsuit was brought on behalf of ANSWER and the Muslim American Society Freedom (MASF) by attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice is continuing and is now before the federal D.C. Circuit court.
We also stated that under no circumstances would we pay these illegal fines.
Tens of thousands of people sent letters to the DC government supporting our Free Speech rights and condemning the obvious targeting of the anti-war movement. Today, those massive fines and the new and ever mounting fines are being held over our head and really over everyone who is engaged in traditional grassroots organizing.
Our leaflets and posters are our voice. Neither ANSWER nor any other grassroots movement has corporate backing and financing that would allow for mass media advertising. We have to firmly defend our rights in the face of an attack that comes from the DC government but not from it alone. In DC and elsewhere during the Bush years, national and local law enforcement agencies fine-tuned the coordination of their efforts to suppress Free Speech and harass activists.
We have a right to publicize the March 21st March on the Pentagon. Fining the anti-war movement tens of thousands of dollars for putting up Free Speech-protected literature makes a mockery out of the First Amendment.
ANSWER organizers and attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice are available for media interviews. Please contact Bill Hackwell at 415-269-7917 to make arrangements.
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-694-8720
Los Angeles: 213-251-1025
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
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